Starrer Battles You in Santa Maria Handicap

(from track report)
Starrer returns to competition in Sunday's $200,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) for older fillies and mares at Santa Anita following a two-month layoff.

There's been no problem with the 5-year-old daughter of Dynafomer. That's been the plan all along, according to trainer John Shirreffs.

"She ran in a lot of races, the Breeders' Cup (Distaff on Oct. 26) and then in the Bayakoa (Dec. 15), so a little break was in order," the trainer said Friday. "We're hoping this is a good opportunity for her. She's training well, doing well and we brought her over here yesterday (from Shirreffs' headquarters at Hollywood Park). She galloped on the track this morning and went well."

Starrer, who won the Bayakoa (gr. II) by five lengths for the second time in her career, drew top weight of 119 pounds for the 1 1/16-mile Santa Maria. She and jockey Patrick Valenzuela will start from the inside gate in the field of five.

Starrer has a 4-5-3 record from 18 starts, with earnings of $743,033 for owner George Krikorian of Redondo Beach, Calif.

The Bobby Frankel-trained You, with Kent Desormeaux riding, drew the outside post and will carry 118 pounds.

In other developments leading up to the Santa Maria, trainer Dan Hendricks said Rhiana could be available for purchase after the race.

"We switched her to the dirt and she ran so well that we stayed on the dirt and she ran second in the stake (Paseana Handicap on Jan. 15)," Hendricks said of the 6-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Runaway Groom. "The idea was that if this race didn't come up super-tough or with too many (horses), we'd run in it. We only nominated to Monday's turf race (the Buena Vista) in case it rained and that race came off the turf and only had three or four horses.

"But in the Santa Maria, possibly we could be third-best. We're going to try and win it, but it's not bad running third in a Grade I and then selling her. She's going to be quite valuable if we could do that. There's always that opportunity. People are in (the business) to have fun and run horses, but realistically, they know if they can make a big pay day on a horse, they should take it."

Rhiana has a 3-5-4 record from 18 starts, with earnings of $188,680 for owners John and Allegra Ernst of San Diego.

$200,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I), fillies and mares 4 & up, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt.
1. Starrer, Pat Valenzuela, 119
2. Printemps, Laffit Pincay Jr., 118
3. Rhiana, Julie Krone, 112
4. Se Me Acabo, Gary Stevens, 113
5. You, Kent Desormeaux, 118